Former Brown trustee files complaint

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One of the second set of trustees assigned to monitor the James Brown estate has filed a complaint against new trustee Russell Bauknight and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, alleging that they refuse to release documents that she says should be public records.

In 2007, Adele Pope and Robert Buchanan were named by Aiken Judge Jack Early to replace trustees David Cannon, Buddy Dallas and Alfred Bradley, and the new trustees discovered that a $900,000 check had been misdirected into the trust's checking account, according to a Court of Appeals decision.

That wasn't the end of the soul singer's estate troubles, however. A year later, then-Attorney General Henry McMaster, of South Carolina, named Bauknight, a Columbia accountant, as a neutral trustee to replace Pope and Buchanan and review a proposed settlement, agreed upon by Brown's heirs, which divided his assets among his widow, his children and a charitable trust.

Pope and Buchanan, by then requesting several million dollars in fees, challenged the settlement and their removal. Litigation among them and Bauknight and the attorney general's office awaits a fall hearing before the South Carolina Supreme Court. That hearing appears to be the last major impediment to settling Brown's estate.

In Pope's new complaint, filed a week ago in Newberry County, she questions an assertion made by Bauknight that Brown's estate was worth only $4.7 million at his death Dec. 26, 2006, and places its value far higher, at $85 million.

In addition, she demands the final version and all drafts of a document called the James Brown Legacy Trust, which she says should be a public record; questions McMaster's use of contingency-fee attorney Kenneth Wingate to represent the attorney general's office and 10 other plaintiffs against her and Buchanan; and maligns several witnesses on Wingate's list.

A spokesman for Pope declined to comment, as did Bauknight. A spokesman for Wilson said his office was reviewing Pope's complaint.

Brown's daughter, Deanna Brown Thomas, recently held a summer music camp for area kids through her James Brown Family Children Foundation without any estate support.

Loose ends remain among her family members' litigation against Pope, Buchanan and Cannon, from whom the estate seeks restitution. Her father had warned his children that they should be wary of people seeking to take advantage of the situation, Brown Thomas said.

"My father told us all that we were going to have to stick together and to fight, because if we don't, people were going to rip us off," she said.

That has happened in the form of two sets of estate administrators, she said, and a particularly grating aspect of Pope's and Buchanan's handling of the estate was their selection of several irreplaceable family heirlooms to auction to pay estate expenses.

Among them was a Grammy Award, which Pope sent to international auction company Christie's before it was intercepted by Grammy officials, who reminded her that the awards can't be sold, Brown Thomas said. The award is now on loan to the Augusta Museum of History.

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billyjones1949 08/09/11 - 11:14 pm
All this would not be

All this would not be necessary if a proper will was done and probated.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 08/10/11 - 09:42 am


sue summer
sue summer 10/12/11 - 09:37 pm
Newberry FOIA lawsuits may

Newberry FOIA lawsuits may hold the answer: will James Brown’s last wish be granted?
The Newberry Observer

Two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed in Newberry County may prove pivotal in answering the question: will entertainment icon James Brown be denied his last wish?
According to Albert “Buddy” Dallas, one of Brown’s original trustees, Brown spent over $20,000 and almost 20 years to make sure his estate plan was exactly as he wanted it.
In a telephone interview, Dallas said he had worked with Brown over a 24-year period, and throughout that time, Brown consistently voiced his concern for children getting an education.
“I was with James Brown in 1987 at the Scottish Rites Hospital in Atlanta when he announced publicly that he would be leaving his estate to educate needy and underprivileged children,” Dallas said.
Brown had only an 8th grade education, and he felt education was the needy child’s only way out. Brown promoted education at every opportunity, even in his music, Dallas said.
Brown’s song, “Don’t Be a Dropout,” repeats the refrain, “without education, you might as well be dead.”
Dallas said that Brown formalized his wishes in his will and a trust, dated Aug. 1, 2000, and that the trust is recorded in two states, Georgia and South Carolina. Brown’s will and estate plan were under discussion with his attorney for over two years, and his children were aware of his wishes.
According to a Rolling Stone article in July, Brown and his children were not close, and in 1988 at a business meeting he declared, "They will not ride on my back when I'm gone, Mr. Dallas! Do you hear me?"
“Mr. Brown’s testamentary scheme was quite simple and extremely altruistic,” Dallas said, explaining that Brown’s estate plan provided for three things:
1. To six children, named in the will, Brown left his household and personal effects.
2. For his “blood” grandchildren, Brown set up an educational trust.
3. Everything else Brown owned, including royalties and the right to his image, he left to an education trust for needy and underprivileged children in South Carolina and Georgia.
“Here we are, five years later, and not one needy or underprivileged child has received one dime,” Dallas said.
What happened to thwart the final wishes of the “Godfather of Soul”?
Brown’s will was clear that anyone who challenged his estate plan would receive nothing. Yet, within a year of his death on Christmas Day, 2006, Brown’s will had been challenged by some of the children specifically excluded from inheriting his music empire, as well as by the woman with whom he lived.
According to previous filings, Tommie Rae Hynie Brown was married to another man at the time she exchanged vows with Brown. Therefore, she could not be Brown’s wife. Given that Brown was widely reported to have had a vasectomy in the early 1980s, there is also a question of paternity regarding her son.
At the time the challenges to Brown’s will were made, the three original trustees had resigned.
In November 2007, the Aiken Court appointed Adele Pope of Newberry and Aiken attorney Robert Buchanan to replace them.
In August of 2008, AG Henry McMaster entered into a settlement agreement that called for placing Brown’s assets in a deceptively-named “James Brown Legacy” Trust--deceptively named, in that the “Legacy” Trust was never a part of Brown’s estate plan. Under the agreement, more than half of the Legacy Trust assets would then be given to some of those who had contested the will.
McMaster named Columbia CPA Russell Bauknight the sole trustee of Brown’s assets. Bauknight was appointed by the AG and serves at the AG’s pleasure, giving the AG full control of the Legacy Trust.
McMaster asked that Pope and Buchanan sign a statement not to criticize him or the agreement. In a previously filed affidavit, attorney Pope asserts she has a duty to warn her clients with foundations that in South Carolina, the AG may attempt to rewrite their estate plans.
Buchanan and Pope appealed McMaster’s settlement agreement in the summer of 2009.
They are now being sued. In the lawsuit, Columbia attorney Ken Wingate serves as outside counsel for the State, current trustee Bauknight, and 10 private plaintiffs – including some of Brown’s claimed heirs.
The lawsuit alleges Pope and Buchanan caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to Brown’s music empire during their tenure as trustees, which ended in early 2009.
Despite Wingate’s allegation, Bauknight has filed documents with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), claiming that at Brown’s death in 2006, his music empire was worth only $4.7 million.
Pope and Buchanan valued the assets at $100 million, less a $15 million debt.
The figure of $100 million has been widely reported in national publications such as Forbes and the Rolling Stone, and all previous trustees have concurred in the higher valuation.
As early as 1999, Brown borrowed $26 million, using his music assets as collateral. In announcing the bond deal, Wall Street financier David Pullman stated in a press release: “James Brown has created over $100 million in entertainment assets which continue to generate royalties…”
Between 1999 and 2006, Brown earned about $50 million in royalties and fees for performances, and in a 2007 prospectus, some of Brown’s children estimated the value of his music empire as high as $200 million.
In 2010 alone, Brown’s royalties were reported at $5.4 million.
AG Alan Wilson has not released the documents requested by Pope in the Newberry FOIA lawsuits.
The documents Pope is seeking include: a copy of Wingate’s contingency-fee contract with the AG’s office; documents related to the valuation of Brown’s estate and trust; a copy of the James Brown Legacy Trust; and the authorization document under which Bauknight purports to speak for the AG’s office.
These documents may help to determine how much education funding will be available to needy and deserving children in South Carolina and Georgia, how much of James Brown’s music empire will be given to those he specifically excluded from inheriting it, if the State can take control of Brown’s personal estate plan and rewrite it—and whether the Freedom of Information Act will be undermined by the very public official responsible for enforcing it.
The S.C. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Brown case on Nov. 1.

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